III Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs confirmed that Maj. Gen. Thomas Weidley, commanding general of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, had relieved Lt. Col. James R. Compton, commanding officer of Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 on April 22 due to “loss of trust and confidence.”
'Eternally missed’: Marines identify 5 KC-130J crew members killed in midair collision off Japanese coast
The lone survivor in the tragic midair collision has since been released from the hospital and Corps officials have not released the Marine’s name.
The release, in response to a Marine Corps Times query, did not specify the reasons for Compton’s firing and offered no additional information. Compton could not immediately be reached for comment.
A source with knowledge of the incident told Marine Corps Times that Compton’s firing was a direct result of decisions made that may have been related to the fatal collision.
Six Marines died in the Dec. 6 crash over the Philippine Sea, the entire KC-130J crew and the Hornet pilot. Japanese defense officials at the time described it as a midair collision.
Lt. Col. Kevin R. Herrmann, 38; Maj. James M. Brophy, 36; Staff Sgt. Maximo Alexander Flores, 27; Cpl. William C. Ross, 21; and Cpl. Daniel E. Baker, 21, were killed when their KC-130J collided with an F/A-18 Hornet, piloted by Capt. Jahmar F. Resilard, with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, who also died.
The two KC-130J pilots, Herrmann and Brophy, and aircrew members Flores, Ross and Baker were assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, out of the Marine air station in Iwakuni, Japan.
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“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the names of our fallen Marines,” Lt. Col. Mitchell T. Maury, commander of VMGR-152, said in a command release. “They were exceptional aviators, Marines, and friends whom will be eternally missed. Our thoughts and prayers remain with their families and loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”
Three of the deceased were married, two had children.
Baker, a 2015 Tremont (Indiana) High School graduate had called home just before the final mission, the Journal Star reported. Family members described him as reliable, loving and compassionate.
Ross, a native of Hendersonville, Tennessee, had served only two years in the Corps before the crash.
Flores followed his father Maximo Flores’ path. The elder had served as a Marine infantryman in 1979. The son joined in 2010.
His father told Marine Corps Times following the crash that his son had fulfilled his legacy the moment he heard his son’s company gunnery sergeant call cadence at MCRD San Diego, California.
“I just started crying,” Maximo Flores said.
Herrmann, a 16-year Marine Corps veteran, was posthumously promoted to lieutenant colonel. He had received the Air Medal with 24 Strike Flight Awards. He is survived by his wife and three daughters.
Brophy was also a husband and father. He’d spent a dozen years in the Marines and had received the Air Medal with two Strike Flight Awards.
In January, Marine Corps Times reported that three distinct signals from flight data recorders thought to be lost in the incident had been detected. Officials at the time said that the investigation would “take months.”
Marine Corps Times has made records requests for materials related to the crash.
The lone survivor of the crash was the Hornet’s weapons officer.
The search for more survivors was called off after a massive, multi-day operation that included U.S., Japanese and Australian forces, despite searching nearly 35,000 square nautical miles.
A Navy salvage team dispatched from Yokosuka Naval Base on Dec. 17, and arrived at the scene on Dec. 18 with a TPL-25 towed pinger locator.
“On Dec. 19, signals were detected and by Dec. 21, the team was able to confirm three distinct pingers at a depth of approximately 3,000 meters (9,843 feet)," the Marine Corps said in a statement. “Two of the pingers are thought to mark the location of the KC-130, one of which is co-located with the KC-130′s digital flight data recording device, and the third pinger is associated with the F/A-18.”